A consultant's report (pdf) released last month found that Houston PD failed to investigate 20,000 offenses for which officers had "workable leads." Reported the Houston Chronicle, "The report noted that 15,000 burglaries and thefts, 3,000 assaults and nearly 3,000 hit-and-runs were not investigated last year. The data was based on monthly HPD management reports of cases with workable leads." From the Chron, see:
- 20,000 criminal cases not investigated in 2013 by HPD
- Chief: HPD can't investigate every crime and should not try
- Editorial: HPD needs help: More money won't cure ineffective management at the top
- Falkenberg: HPD woes are for us all to bear
In Houston, the announcement has predictably led to calls for H-Town to hire more police officers, so let's focus on that. Assume for a moment more officers are needed (and I agree with Kuff that how many is a legitimate debate). The city is strapped so how to pay for it?
Here's how to boost the number of police officers available on patrol while freeing up officers to work as detectives in the burglary and other backlogged divisions:
- Implement verified response for burglar alarm calls, requiring alarm companies to verify a crime was committed before dispatching police. These alarms are 98-99% false, almost never result in arrests, and account for 10-12% of most departments' patrol calls. This one reform would be the equivalent of increasing patrol staffing by ten percent.
- Begin to use discretion given police by the Legislature in 2007 to write citations instead of making arrests for driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana.
- Follow Texas' other large cities by issuing paraphernalia citations for crack pipes instead of sending them to the crime lab to scrape traces off for state-jail felony possession prosecution. (See Harris County District Judge Mike McSpadden's letter to the Legislature urging this reform.)